How Rare is Rare?

UT’s United States’ bound newspapers are not equally distributed across the decades.  I estimate that there are about thirty titles up to and including the year 1830 that are rare.  That does not mean there are thirty rare volumes; a title might include twelve or more years, as in its holding of the Arkansas Gazette, or it could be only one year, as with the Natchez Ariel.  The cataloging and listing of these newspapers is made difficult because the same newspaper could be daily, and weekly and tri-weekly.  The same news could appear daily as in New York’s Commercial Advertiser, or in the Commercial Advertiser’s tri-weekly New York Spectator.   UT has volumes of the New York Spectator that are unavailable on microfilm or on the Internet.  A similar set-up occurred with the daily Charleston City Gazetteand its more rarely printed Carolina Gazette.  The same article will be printed in each.  Sometimes the more rarely printed paper will be named, for instance, the “Philadelphia National Gazette for the country.”

While UT has some newspapers from the 1700’s, these are usually pretty widely held. For instance, UT has the Kentucky Gazette for 1789-1799, but it is also held by 52 other libraries, and is on microfilm.   UT has the Charleston City Gazette for 1795-1797, from 1799–1800, but it, too, is widely held and on microfilm for these years.

The strong years of UT’s holdings are from 1831 to 1860 and from 1861 to 1880, with about 50 rare papers in each group.  Some titles are fairly common for some years, but relatively rare in other years. UT holds the Boston Patriot for 1834-35 and from 1839 to 1845.  The whole number of years is matched only by two other libraries, although 45 hold some years.  Rarer is the Cotton Plant, published in both Washington and Baltimore.  Eight other libraries have some years, but only UT has the range from April 1852 to August 1856.  UT is the only library to hold the Louisiana Gazette and Acadia & Lafourche Advertiser.  UT holds the Baltimore Ocean & Weekly Clipper, the only library to hold April 1842-March 1844.  And so it goes, the rare newspapers can be from any state then in the union.

The greatest number of nineteenth-century newspapers collected by UT fall in the range from 1850 to 1880, which nicely covers the Civil War and Reconstruction.  The largest number of titles are probably from Georgia, although this is deceiving, for UT may have more newspaper pages from South Carolina, although having far fewer titles.   UT is the only library holding the Albany (Georgia) News for 1874 to 1877; the Atlanta Telegram from November, 1876; the Brunswick (Georgia) Appeal for 1879; Cherokee Georgian from 1875-1878;  and the SavannahWeekly News, 1881, 1884-1885, to name a sample.  UT’s holdings of Arkansas and Louisiana newspapers are, as one would expect, large; but it also has large holdings of Ohio newspapers.

If you are interested in contributing funds to speed this massive project, please contact Linda Abbey, of UT’s General Libraries, phone (512) 795-4366 or online to the
Historic Newspapers Preservation  link.


About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden